According to a Reuter’s report, CVS plans to open 300 new Minute Clinics in 2007.
Is this going to change the way doctor’s offices fundamentally do business? In the long-term, I think so, because right now they can’t compete with retail convenience. In multi-doc office, I expect to see doctor/NP/PA scheduling altering to have a more or less constant presence in the office. This will be particularly true with NPs and PAs who can handle more immediate issues — the things that will be diagnosed at Minute Clinics.
There’s been lots of talk in the medical blogging community about how Minute Clinics are “bad” in the sense that a patient’s medical history will be spread out over multiple locations. That the treatment prescribed by the NP at the Minute Clinic will be sub-par, or not what one’s PCP would have chosen. These are valid complaints, so I expect to see doctors respond in the areas where Minute Clinic density is higher.
You don’t need a large medical practice to cover a lot of hours. Lots of hours = lots of availability. Sure it’s not as nice as a 7-7 medical practice, but it IS more convenient for the patients/customers. And it has unexpected benefits as well — 3 days weekends once a month and the like are not uncommon for pharmacists.
Realistically, a moderately-sized medical practice (3 docs, say) could easily cover 72 hours of availability per week. 8am-8pm Monday through Friday, and 9am-3pm on Saturday and Sunday. Start with one doctor in the morning, have the second come in later in the day, say around 11am or noon, and doctor #1 goes home around 4-5pm while his/her colleague stays until late. This is what retail pharmacists do, and I expect you’ll see variations on this theme for doctors once they start feeling the pressure from retail clinician availability. Get an NP or a PA to see the urgent cases, and I think you could probably cut down on ER overuse in your area.
Are there problems? Yes. Are the insurmountable? No. Will it happen in the next five years? Probably. Think about it. 300 Minute Clinics in 2007 alone. If they become big hits, expect to see that number grow yearly. That’s a lot of Minute Clinics. That’s a lot of lost, easy revenue.*
*I think it was Flea(?) who said that these types of visits are the bread and butter of pediatricians because they’re fast and easy. These are the types of visitors the Minute Clinics are catering to.
[tags]Medicine, pharmacy, CVS, Minute Clinic, retail medicine[/tags]